The Spectator

A weekly, UK-based magazine covering current political, economic, and cultural issues. Articles include interviews, commentary, opinion pieces, essays, and cultural criticism.

Articles from Vol. 285, No. 8989, 2000

A French Connection
LE MARIAGE by Diane Johnson Chatto, L16.99, pp.336 Le Mariage is a sequel, sort of, to Diane Johnson's last novel Le Divorce. The Persand family, impeccably bon chic, bon genre, with flats in Paris and an estate in week-ending distance, play a major...
A Household Name
WORDSWORTH: A LIFE by Juliet Barker Viking, L25, pp. 992 When Juliet Barker published her biography The Brontes in 1995 she might have rested on her laurels as a Bronte scholar for life. Only five years on she has moved with happy ease, like Mary Hutchinson,...
Ancient & Modern
THE `electoral college' system by which the Americans elect (or not) a president was invented by the Romans. The Americans intelligently adopted Roman principles in full. All Roman citizens were born into a 'tribe', of which there were 35. These were...
Arafat's Munich
Ramallah, West Bank THE walls are painted with slogans. Posters, some of children waiting to throw rocks at armoured personnel-carriers, have gone up. Leaflets are distributed. Radio stations play propaganda. More than 200 martyrs lie buried. A new cemetery...
'Art Is Messy ...'
Suffolk is, of course, Constable country. He, however, didn't have to go to art school there; he went to the Royal Academy Schools in London. For those who do study art today in Suffolk - and who knows what young Constables may yet rise from the valley...
Assault on Young Minds
Setting aside the nail-biting outcome, this has been the dullest of US elections for those who enjoy the cut and thrust of ideas rather than the minutiae of Floridan psephology. The only issues that raised blood pressures before the frantic fingercounting...
Banned Wagon
`WE can't have an economy made up of people selling burgers to each other,' devotees of the manufacturing industry like to say of the shift towards a servicebased economy. Indeed we can't, not least because the government is trying to render the activity...
Beautifying the Baltic
THE SCANDINAVIAN GARDEN by Karl-Dietrich Buhler Frances Lincoln, L30, pp. 250 It is lucky that political correctness does not yet apply to the inanimate, or it would be verboten to write about French cuisine or Italian shoes or Danish pastry or what...
Bumbledom's Blunt Blue Pencil
POLITICS, PRUDERY AND PERVERSIONS: THE CENSORING OF THE ENGLISH STAGE, 1901-1968 by Nicholas de Jongh Methuen, L16.99, pp. 272 There is little doubt now that the office of Lord Chamberlain restricted the advancement of the dramatic arts in this country...
Carry on, Sar' Major
COMPANY Sergeant-Major Leitch was not a big man - he probably just made the five foot ten inches which was then the minimum height in the Foot Guards -- but he bloody well looked the part. After war service in the Scots Guards he had joined the prison...
Cheltenham Cracker
But, Daddy,' she wailed, `my name isn't Eileen.' Listening to the mobile phone chorus from those of us who had rashly entrusted -ourselves to Great Western trains at Paddington to get to Cheltenham's Open 2000 meeting, hers was the most poignant cry....
Christopher Howse
Christopher Howse I gingerly stuck my nose into Lord Acton by Roland Hill (Yale, L25), being suspicious of the bee in the historian's bonnet about power, which made him bend over so far backwards to be fair to the enemies of his own Church that he ended...
Complex Logistics
Just my luck. In the year that I decide to give up my flat in Greenwich Village and move back into my bedsit in west London, it suddenly becomes incredibly fashionable to keep homes on both sides of the Atlantic. According to last week's cover story...
Counting the Cost Violence
POLICE CASUALTIES IN IRELAND, 1919-22 by Richard Abbott Mercier, L15, pp. 340, tel: 001 353 1661 5299 Since the start of the current 'Troubles' in Northern Ireland in 1969 some 302 policemen and -women have been killed by terrorists, principally the...
Dear Mary
Q. My wife and I have an old-established friend who recently announced that she has inherited a title and is to be formally addressed as Lady X. An inheritance is unlikely and our mutual friends believe that she has purchased the rights of a Lord of...
Diary
Watching Sydney Harbour Bridge erupt in coloured flames to mark the end of a brilliantly organised Olympics, I wept for London, city of the dud Dome and the invisible River of Fire. Last week I was in Paris and wept for London again. When I first came...
Did Some One Say 'Bitch'?
OBSERVING the progress of black-suited women executives in the workplace, one sometimes wonders whether feminism is a masculine invention. It could have been devised by Andy Capp as a way of tormenting his long-suffering and overworked wife, Flo. Or...
Distinctive Images
Exhibitions 2 John Piper. The Forties (Imperial War Museum, till 28 January) According to Anita Brookner in her new book Romanticism and its Discontents, a romantic prefers travelling hopefully to arriving. John Piper pursued a sort of enchantment with...
First Lady to the Last
AMERICA'S QUEEN: THE LIFE OF JACQUELINE KENNEDY ONASSIS by Sarah Bradford Viking, 20, pp. 690 Jackie has been called America's Queen before, not least by Frank Sinatra, who, on her death, sent two dozen red roses with the message, `You are America's...
French Generals Admire British Soldiers; French Politicans Are Uneasy
The other day, I came across a fascinating piece of small print. A session of the French National Assembly's defence committee might seem unlikely to provide illumination or entertainment, for in recent decades there has been much more patriotic consensus...
Gifted Greeks
Dear, oh dear! The last time I answered a letter to the editor was literally 23 years ago. The right to reply may be sacrosanct, but so is my right to nail the big lie, as in a letter titled `Giftless Greeks' (Letters, 11 November). If any of you missed...
Gravel Allure
Whilst the skies wept, rivers rose and floods inundated, most people, I imagine, scarcely thought of their gardens except to dismiss their welfare as a side-issue. Only people like me, on the threshold of a major autumn planting programme, have been...
Healthy Living
I have become very faddish about food. I probably inherited this from my father who spent his last years living on olive-oil and porridge oats (mostly taken separately, mind you). My diet has not gone as far as oats and oil yet but it extends to being...
His Bank Wants to Price Me out of the Market, So I've a Beaune to Pick with Wim
A fact-finding visit to Beaune encourages me to believe that I can see the European Central Bank off. It will not succeed in its plan to price me out of the market for drinking in France. It keeps trying, of course. Every so often it marches into the...
History Shows That Rows over Presidential Elections Serve a Purpose
No one should get upset over the American presidential row. Close elections are the warp and woof of democracy. Its organic growth thrives on rows and is watered by the tears of bitterness. It was as a result of the disputed poll of 1824 that the American...
How to Beat the Class System
CLASS ACT by Lynda Lee-Potter Metro, L17.99, pp. 250 The room at least had made some effort,' wrote Lynda Lee-Potter in her Daily Mail column after the paper had blown up a registry office snap of my wedding on its front page. I was mortified by this...
I'm Groovy, Honest
I did try this week, I promise. I said to myself: `James, if you're not very careful everyone's going to think you're a crusty old colonel rather than the groovy youngish fellow you actually are. So whatever you do, Don't Mention The War (again).' But...
Italian Lesson
WHETHER you call it the London Gateway or by its previous and much more appealing name 'Scratchwood', the first service station on the M1 going north is a useful place to stop if you're coming south. It is a chance to get a coffee and a newspaper before...
Lennox, the Grandmaster
IF it is really true that those whom the gods wish to destroy are given their hearts' desires, then they have truly got it in for professional boxing. For years, boxing has been looking for - praying for - someone who will be able to `restore the credibility...
Letters
Anti-Semitic? Not us From KS. Umpleby Sir: Anthony Julius ('England's gifts to Jew hatred', 11 November) says, 'Time and again we are treated to an automatic assumption that the Israelis are the aggressors in every exchange, which conforms with [sic]...
Losing Oneself-And Reader
ADVENTURES IN AFRICA by Gianni Celati University of Chicago Press, L13, pp. 180 Travel literature falls into three categories. In the first, the intention is to provide tourists with the information they think they may need for their holiday: local delicacies,...
Lurid but Lame
One of the great disappointments for urban dwellers relocating to small towns is the discovery that so few of one's neighbours are local characters. In many towns, 85-90 per cent of the population are perfectly ordinary types with names like John and...
Mind Your Language
`WELL, it's bloody silly, isn't it?' said my husband. `Yes, darling,' I replied. `But I can't just write that, can I?' The 'it' in question was The Encarta Book of Quotations, in some way connected with Bill Gates, but published in Britain by Bloomsbury...
Moments of True Greatness
Exhibitions 1 William Blake (Tate Britain, till 11 February) There is no question that he was a man of genius, T.S. Eliot remarked of Wyndham Lewis, but genius for exactly what it would be remarkably difficult to say. Something of the sort is also true...
Mr Morgan's Adventures as an Investor Are Enough to Make You Wrap a Towel around Your Head
Piers Morgan, editor of the Mirror, is again swinging on the high wire, and this time he may fall. Although last May the Press Complaints Commission censured him for his share dealings, he survived. His employers, Trinity Mirror, stood by him. But inquiries...
Nature Does Not Exist
FOR Question Time recently, I was with David Dimbleby's panel in Norwich. We were asked about floods, global warming and carbon-dioxide emissions. I said I could offer no more than a hunch: that a change in the pattern of our weather might be under way,...
Nice Idea
'Ere, have you heard the latest? Have you heard about them Euro-johnnies and their plans for a federal superstate? It's that Joschka Fischer, the Kraut chap. He's really lost it this time. He's let the cat out of the bag all right. He wants to have a...
Now and Then
H.V. MORTON'S collection of essays The Heart of London was published in 1925. Morton's London is compared with that of today: Down in the crypt of St Martin's Church, the church whose doors never close, I saw a remarkable sight... Lying, sitting upright,...
Now It's Blasphemy to Mock Europe
Brussels THIS article is blasphemous. It contains irreverential criticism of the European Union. It brings the European Court of Justice into disrepute, or tries to. It subjects Senor Damaso Ruiz-Jarabo Colomer, the Court's Spanish advocate-general,...
Patronising Rubbish
Awe know, next year Radio Four is to broadcast a magazine programme about books aimed at children. Let us pray the network's controller Helen Boaden doesn't fall into the trap into which Radio Three is currently mired with its attempts to interest children...
Philip Hensher
Philip Hensher Neither of the two discoveries of my year were remotely new writers, but still worth sharing; the unique bitchy-sensitive Dawn Powell, and Surtees. Both I read with an amazed sense of `why has no one ever told me about this before?'; well,...
Portrait of the Week
The House of Lords defeated by 205 to 144 the Sexual Offences Bill which would have reduced the age of consent for homosexual acts to 16; they voted instead for an amendment by Lady Young to retain the illegality for both boys and girls of anal sex under...
Powerful Impressions
The Last Supper; La boheme (Glyndebourne Touring Opera) Glyndebourne Touring Opera is, most courageously, taking round the country Harrison Birtwistle's new opera, The Last Supper, with the cast that gave the world premiere last April in Berlin. Lasting...
Recent Book on Tape
Heaven help us if the tapes of Peter Ackroyd's London, The Biography (Random House, abridged) fell into the hands of the archetypal anoraked London cabby. `St James's Square mate? That's where they used to dump all the dead dogs and cats after the Fire...
Rembrandt's Influences
In Tradition and the Individual Talent, T.S. Eliot famously criticised our tendency to insist, when we praise a poet, upon those aspects of his work in which he least resembles anyone else. In these aspects or parts of his work we pretend to find what...
Sex in Another Form
MERVYN PEAKE: MY EYES MINT GOLD: A LIFE by Malcolm Yorke John Murray, L25, pp. 368 Malcolm Yorke has written acclaimed biographies of several artists Gill, Matthew Smith, Keith Vaughan - but since he is also a painter and the author of children's books...
Someone Has Blundered
SNATCHING DEFEAT FROM THE JAWS OF VICTORY: 20THCENTURY MILITARY BLUNDERS by David Wragg Sutton, 14.99, pp. 246 Afred, Lord Tennyson's poetic tribute to the `noble six hundred', who rode `half a league onward' in the Crimea, has encouraged historical...
Some You Win, Some You Lose
AS you read this, we Americans may finally have a new President-elect. Or we may not. Either way, the whole thing has boiled down to the state of Florida and the votes of about seven elderly Jews who normally only leave their apartments to visit the...
Spectator Wine Club
THE Avery's offers for The Spectator Wine Club have always proved to be tremendously popular, and have traditionally been very well supported. My illustrious predecessor managed to search out some spectacular discoveries with Avery's, which many of us...
Striking the Best of Bargains
THE SUMMER OF A DORMOUSE by John Mortimer Viking, L16.99, pp. 213 In this account of a year in his life, John Mortimer remarks that `the real trouble with old age is that it lasts for such a short time'. As though driven by an unremitting awareness of...
The Emperor and the Robber Barons
MIDNIGHT DIARIES by Boris Yeltsin Weidenfeld, 20, pp. 398 Boris Yeltsin is the leader who ruled Russia between 1991 and 2000 with the distant caprice and the contradictory, sometimes irrational, instincts of a tsar. He saved Russia from communism in...
The King Is Dead, Long Live the King
DOUBLE TROUBLE by Griel Marcus Faber, L9.99, pp. 248 MYSTERY TRAIN by Griel Marcus Faber, L12.99, pp. 366 MY ELVIS BLACKOUT by Simon Crump Bloomsbury, L10, pp. 145 Only two weeks before Bill Clinton's 1992 inauguration, America faced the consequences...
The Past Is Another County
AT a time and in a country where so much that was familiar has disappeared under concrete or been sacrificed to the remorseless purpose of modern agriculture, the remote farmlands of mid-Devon represent a poignant survival of immemorial England. The...
There Is Really No Need to Be Beastly to Mr Bush or Mr Prescott
Governor Bush said, amid the uncertainty early this week, `It's an interesting period, where we're all in limbo.' This was disappointing for collectors of those Bushisms that so enlivened and confused his speeches during the campaign. True to them, what...
The Uses of Philosophy
THE DREAM OF REASON by Anthony Gottlieb Allen Lane, 20, pp. 480 Ever since Thales fell down a well while studying the stars, historians have been unable to resist poking fun at philosophers at the same time as paying tribute to their achievements. The...
They Even Kill Cats
Magione HERE in Umbria the hunting season is again upon us. Black Sunday - the first Sunday in September - has been and gone. From now until the end of January the hills around us will resound with gunfire. Seven years ago, just at this time of year...
Thirteen of the Best
SPEAKING WITH THE ANGEL edited by Nick Hornby Penguin, L7.99, pp. 215 These short stories are the work of 13 of `the most exciting and popular writers around', all of whom seem to be friends of the editor. The book is sold in aid of the Treehouse Trust...
Time to Tango
Dance Paul Taylor Dance Company (Sadler's Wells) As the dance scholar Marta E. Sevigliano states in the introductory pages of her intriguing book, Tango and the Political Economy of Passion, there is no definitive answer to the question `what is tango?'....
VAMA; the George and Vulture
RESTAURANT reviewers are not supposed to review restaurants on Sunday nights, or so the owners like to believe. `You should have come on Friday,' is the usual Sunday night lament when the anonymous punter asking tricky questions finally comes clean....
Wilde Evening
Theatre In Extremis/De Profundis (National Theatre) The Duchess of Malfi (Barbican) Molly Bloom (Jermyn Street) As always with Oscar Wilde, I have interests to declare: my father Robert was the first actor to play him on stage and screen, and my parents...
Will Murdoch Get ITN?
IN July 1995 a senior Labour official ushered me to a corner off the Burma Road, the Commons corridor where the parliamentary lobby has offices. `We've got an important story for you,' he muttered. This was in the brief honeymoon period of my early days...
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